I felt a bump and opened my eyes. A light bit my eyes. It was Jerry pushing the light of his flashlight into my eyes. The squad car fluttered blue and orange light. Except for this and the light on the corner and Olivia’s green neon across the street flashing
it was dark. Jerry nudged his foot against my butt again.
“Rise and shine, sweetheart.” Jerry did not say “sweetheart” nicely. He always said “sweetheart,” and he never said it nicely. If I could see him behind the light, I would see a little man with a butch cut wearing a Kevlar vest across his chest with his doughnut gut punching out between the vest and his equipment belt. He would have a Glock nineteen on each hip. He could easily have had one of them in his right hand, but I did not see it there, so they were both still holstered. We called him Two Gun Jerry. Nobody needed two Glocks on their hip.
“Hey, you gonna sleep all day?” He knocked his foot into me again.
I said, “Piss off, Jerry.” But I sat up. The clock above the church was at 9:32.
“What did you say, spick?” He booted me again. “Who the hell you think you’re talking to?”
“I’m going. I’m going. Jesus.” I did not tell him that I had said “piss off” because he knew what I said. Saying it again would not improve his understanding. I did not say that I thought I was talking to a major fuzz nutt. We both knew what he was. We both knew he enjoyed it. Saying it was not going to make either one of us a better person. There was no need to tell him that it did not matter that I was not a Mexican. Jerry was not finely attuned to understanding the subtleties of social interaction.
I had made a miscalculation. The night was not frigid, and the shelter needed space for old people and working women with kids. So I took a chance on cardboard on the grill across the street from Olivia’s. I took a chance that the on-duty would be Willy Feathers. I knew Willy from out on the Res. But I had just discovered that he was not the on-duty.
“Hey. Hey.” Jerry said, hitting his foot against my ankle, “Hey. It’s Officer Jordan to spic low life moochers like you. Officer Jordan, you got that.”
He kicked again. “You got that.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Got it, Jerry. Got it.” When you are getting pissed you say dangerous things. I should not have said that. Jerry was known as Quick Draw Jerry. He liked to pull out one of his Glock nineteens, slam back the slide, chamber one, and shove the mean looking little bastard in people’s faces.
But Jerry was holding a flashlight in his left hand, and you cannot draw and slam back the slide when you’ve got a flashlight in one hand. I was not enough of a menace for him to have started with the Glock instead of a flashlight. The flashlight was enough. He liked the flashlight because he could actually use it without getting in too much trouble. He slapped it on the back of my head.
“You got that, you little spick bastard.”
“Yeah, Yeah. Officer Jordan. Got it. Pleased to meet you Jerry Officer Jordan, Officer Jordan, sir.” This is also something I should not have said the way I said it. Although I did not punctuate with “fucking.”
Jerry let it go by just hammering the flashlight against my arm. Hard.
If Willy woke me it would be pretty near to daylight, and he would, more than likely, take me over to Olivia’s and order me an egg sandwich and coffee. He’d tell Dick, the massive, pony-tailed tender behind the bar, that he owed him one. And Dick would grunt and wrinkle his lips and one black eyebrow. He would not be pleased, but he would grunt and bring a hot coffee in a Styrofoam cup. He’d fry an egg and put it between two toasts and put that on a plate and slide it in front of me. When Willy had gone, he’d stand across the bar from me and say, “You can take that sandwich outside with your smell and eat it out there.” Dick was not an fuzz nut, he was just a businessman.
“Thanks, Dick,” I would say to him and wrap my egg sandwich in a couple of napkins and take that and my Styrofoam cup of coffee and go outside. I’d cross the street and sit on sidewalk by the grill, and eat the sandwich and watch the morning sun force the shadow of Olivia’s down into the street and start to warm the sidewalk and the walls of the stores.
But it wasn’t Willy. It was Jerry. His squad car squawked and he backed up to it, keeping the flashlight light pushed into my eyes. The squad car squawked again. He took out the radio mic and sat on the seat of the car with his feet on the curb.
I picked up my blanket and shoved it into my haver. I policed up my camp and started folding the cardboard.
“Just a piece-a-shit just off Main on First, by Olivia’s,” Jerry said into the mic. “Over.” He lifted his finger off the mic. The squad car squawked back at him.
Jerry fingered the mic. “Naw,” he said into it, “He can make it on his own. Over.”
The squad car squawked again.
“Jesus,” Jerry said into the mic, “I got things to do. He’s young and it’s, what, a hunerd yards to the hall, he can do that on his shanks. Christ. I’m busy.” He did not say “over” this time, just lifted his finger from the trigger of the mic.
It was two miles to the shelter hall and, like I say, it was full. I was on my own, I’d have to restart my nap without the assistance of the Great City. I could go over to Olivia’s, but Dick didn’t start his shift until 5 am, and without the encouragement of the law, he would not have anything to do with me anyway. Dorothy had even less sympathy for 48 hours BO than Dick did.
The squad car squawked.
I turned up the street, my cardboard mattress folded under my arm and my haver over my shoulder.
“I catch you philandering out on these streets again,” Jerry shouted at me. “You aint gonna like it.”
I lifted my mattress arm and waved my hand. I did not middle-finger him. I did not tell him that philandering was the last thing I was considering at the moment. It is not my purpose in life to educate fuzz nuts. It has been my experience that most of them are not amenable to a practical education.
At least he didn’t pull his Glocks on me. I guess I can thank the Great City for that much.